What effects do multiple hours of daily TV viewing have on toddlers? It's a long list—and none of the outcomes are good ones. The Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development asked nearly 2,000 families to log their 29-month-olds' TV viewing time (among other aspects of the study), then correlated the amount of screen time with behavior and developmental problems that emerged later in kindergarten. Researchers found that significant problems started cropping up at the threshold of 2 hours and 52 minutes of TV time daily. Children who watched more than that had diminished vocabulary and math skills, shorter attention spans and were more likely to be bullied. And every extra hour of daily TV viewing past the three-hour mark noticeably worsened those outcomes.
"This is the first time ever that a stringently controlled associational birth cohort study has looked at and found a relationship between too much toddler screen time and kindergarten risks for poor motor skills and psychosocial difficulties, like victimization by classmates," said Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and The Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre. "These findings suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP discourages watching television during infancy and recommends not more than two hours per day beyond age 2. It seems that every extra hour beyond that has a remarkably negative influence." [dailymail.co.uk, 2/14/14 stats, c&e]
Teens who spend more than three hours playing violent video games daily may be impairing their moral development, according to scientists at Brock University in Ontario, Canada. Researchers theorize that excessive exposure to violent imagery paired with diminished social contact makes it more difficult for teens to tell right from wrong. Additionally, adolescents engaged in too much violent gaming were less likely to empathize with others. The study involved 109 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls, and it surveyed what kinds of games they played and how much time they spent playing. Eighty-eight percent played games, and more than half played daily, with violent games (defined as those which involved killing, maiming or torturing other human beings) were among the most popular. Writing in the journal Educational Media International, the research team added, "Exposure to violence in video games may influence the development of moral reasoning because violence is not only presented as acceptable but is also justified and rewarded." [dailymail.co.uk, 2/6/14 c&e]
The head teacher of an elementary school in Wales recently sent a letter to parents warning them that children as young as 6 had been "initiating games that involve simulating rape and sexual intercourse" and "having detailed discussion of drug use"—actions he and his staff attribute to the children imitating the video game Grand Theft Auto V. The letter from Morian Morgan, head of the Coed-y-Brain Primary School in Llanbradach, also told parents that some children were "acting out scenes from the game which include the strongest of sexual swear words," "having conversations" about sexual acts and "play acting extremely violent games that sometimes result in actual injury." [southwalesargus.co.uk, 2/12/14 c&e]
Nearly six in 10 children in Great Britain have signed up to participate in a social network by the age of 10, though most such networks prohibit joining until 13. According to a survey by the British online safety organization Knowthenet, more than half of these children lied about their age to get a Facebook account. The survey also found that underage users were often both perpetrators and targets of unwanted online hijinks. About 21% said they'd posted negative comments, 26% said they'd actually taken over someone else's account to post, and 43% said they'd exchanged messages with strangers. [mediapost.com, 2/6/14 stats]
Facebook has announced a new list of gender identities for users, 51 in toto, including choices of "transgender," "transgender female," "transgender male," "transgender person," "androgynous," "pangender," "bi-gender" "gender fluid," "non-binary," "genderqueer" and "two-spirit." "While to many this change may not mean much, for those it affects it means a great deal," a Facebook spokesperson explained in an email. "We see this as one more way we can make Facebook a place where people can express their authentic identity." [mashable.com, 2/13/14; AP, 2/13/14; thedailybeast.com, 2/15/14]
There have been two high-profile instances of individuals "coming out" recently, one from the sports world, the other from Hollywood. University of Missouri senior defensive end and NFL draft prospect Michael Sam has announced that he is gay, and if drafted later this year, will become the first openly homosexual (active) player in the NFL. And 26-year-old Canadian actress Ellen Page, best known for her starring role as a pregnant teen in the 2007 film Juno, had this to say in Las Vegas at the Time to THRIVE conference: "I'm here today because I am gay. And because maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility. I also do it selﬁshly, because I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I'm standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain. I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise." [eonline.com, 2/14/14; hrc.org, 2/14/14; usatoday.com, 2/10/14]
"We wanted to smash expectations of who Noah is. The first thing I told [star] Russell [Crowe] is, 'I will never shoot you on a houseboat with two giraffes behind you.' … You're going to see Russell Crowe as a superhero, a guy who has this incredibly difficult challenge put in front of him and has to overcome it. … I had no problem completely honoring and respecting everything in the Bible and accepting it as truth. … For people who are very literal-minded, it would be great to communicate that the themes of the film are very much in line with the themes of the Bible—ideas about hope, second chances and family. If they allow that, they're going to have an incredible experience with the movie. If they don't allow it, it's theirs to lose."
—Noah director Darren Aronofsky, whose film film arrives in theaters on March 28 [hollywoodreporter.com, 2/12/14]
"Studying ancient biblical texts isn't most people's cup of tea. But, when you add zombies, it instantly becomes everyone's cup of tea."
—Central Michigan University student Kevin White, explaining the appeal of a new class his school is offering called "From Revelation to The Walking Dead." The course reportedly explores apocalyptic themes throughout ancient and modern times, with a special focus on … the shambling undead [AP, 2/10/14]